Melanie Silver

The Carbon Diet: Approaches for Reducing Embodied Carbon – Greenbuild 2020 Session Review

ChuckLohreCarbon Zero, Greenbuild

Our editorial:
The journey to zero carbon will be an awaking to design aesthetics lost in history. The future will be like it was before coal and oil. These cheap fossilized carbon materials have crept into our lives in ways it’s hard to get your head around. In the future you will look at how what you own is recyclable before you buy it. Would you burn that wood in your fireplace? Would you eat the finish on your furniture? What can you do with an old toothbrush? Nothing goes away, not a puff of exhaust, a plastic cup or deadly carcinogens we’ve created. Carbon is an invisible blessing and a curse in our culture. It’s why we are here and too much of it is why we won’t be here. In this session you’ll learn about tools to help you peak behind the curtain of our carbon culture. What would a product look like if it had to be able to be 100% recycled. Landfills are visible evidence of what is being created in exchange for the extinction of 34 percent of the species on earth. Would you build that tombstone for your gravesite?

From the course description
Whole building LCAs are useful to determine the overall embodied carbon impact for a project- however most currently require a complex 3D model. New approaches and tools, that do not require any model, can be used throughout design and construction to make quicker more informed decisions regarding LCA. Structures, envelopes, interiors, and MEP are areas that have the largest embodied carbon impact on a building and early decisions can greatly reduce a project’s total embodied carbon. ZGF has developed the Concrete LCA Tool, a spreadsheet that enables concrete mix design to be analyzed in real time, which allows for intelligent decisions at every phase. Payette’s façade LCA tool enables designers to assess various façade assemblies for embodied carbon impact. Facade construction and materials are chosen early in the design process, the tool empowers designers to consider the LCA impact of their aesthetic choices. LMN completed a comprehensive study of the embodied carbon impact of cyclical TI renovations by using their office as a case study. Many strategies were learned that will be shared for ways to lower the impact of these renovations. Through a theoretical case study of a building using live demonstrations and interactive charrettes, the session will highlight how to implement these approaches to reduce embodied carbon on projects (which can then be used in whole building LCAs) and participants can bring informed decision-making back to their practice.


Determine where the largest embodied carbon impact is in a building.

Calculate embodied carbon for concrete and learn methods to reduce impact.

Utilize LCA tools to assess façades early in design to select options with lower impact.

Demonstrate strategies to reduce embodied carbon for interior renovations.

CE HOUR(S): 1.5


Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver Melanie Silver

Melanie Silver

Melaine Silver
Building Scientist
Melanie Silver, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is part of Payette’s Building Science Group. She works with design teams to meet rigorous sustainability targets through data-driven investigation. She also leads research efforts to implement a healthy material policy throughout the office, and incorporate embodied carbon reduction strategies. Melanie educates the design team on issues relevant to building performance, while understanding which elements are critical to the building’s design or program. Melanie earned her Master of Architecture and Ecological Design Certificate from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Columbia University.

Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen Jenn Chen

jenn-chenJenn Chen
Interior Designer
LMN Architects
Jenn is an interior designer with a focus on sustainability. She has a strong interest in how everyday design decisions can impact human and environmental health. In addition to focusing on healthy materials and lowering embodied impact in her daily work, Jenn has helped launched a finish material library vetting process, as well as a new waste stream process within the office. Jenn is also a main contributor to the local Healthy Material Collaborative, leading efforts to promote awareness for healthy building materials through public and industry installations and engagement events. Such efforts include pulling together a 10′ cubed pavilion on healthy building materials at the Seattle Design Festival Block Party, and leading a Librarian Summit, which led industry practitioners through a series of exercises to help overcome challenges when selecting healthy, sustainable materials.

Roderick Bates Roderick Bates

Roderick Bates
Roderick brings to market the technology developed by KieranTimberlake, managing the transition of internal, bespoke tools to those capable of being used by the greater design community. Roderick interprets ecological, economic, climate, social, and site data to inform sustainable building design and assists architectural teams to envision design modifications to improve a building’s energy performance and thermal comfort, leveraging novel tools to generate actionable information.

Chris Chatto
ZGF Architects
Chris Flint Chatto is a high-performance building specialist focused on integrating architectural design and building systems, optimizing building performance through energy and daylighting studies in early project development, and delivering building efficiencies in completed projects. Several of Chris’s projects have achieved LEED Gold, LEED Platinum, AIA COTE recognition and/or net-zero energy use, including Federal Center South and the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center. He is currently working on Portland, Oregon’s first, and the world’s largest, commercial Living Building.


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